ASA ban Orange ad for being ‘likely to mislead’

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An Orange advert has been banned for misleading customers about its mobile broadband coverage.

The advert claimed Orange's 3G network covered "more people in the UK than any other operator." However, rival company 3 said its 3G network was the largest when it came to population and submitted an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Orange conceded 3 had the largest network when looked at geographically, but protested to the ASA its network was bigger in terms of population.

Despite this, the ASA today upheld the complaint from 3's parent company, Hutchison 3G UK, and made the provider pull the advert.

"The ASA noted Orange had intended the claim to be a population coverage claim however we considered that the claim "The Orange 3G network covers more people in the UK than any other operator" was ambiguous in the context of a mobile broadband service," the ruling stated.

It added: "It did not make clear whether it was referring to Orange covering more people in the places where they lived than any other operator (population coverage), or more people in the UK, wherever they might be using their 3G mobile device (geographical coverage) [therefore] we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead."

The advert is no longer allowed to be shown and ASA has warned Orange not to compare its service to its competitors "unless they could demonstrate that such claims were based on directly comparable measurement and reporting methods."

Orange has accepted the ruling but has released a statement saying it is less than happy with the outcome and believed the decision "effectively gags" companies talking about their own achievements.

A spokesperson said: "What's of most frustration is the company who raised the complaint, 3, have themselves started to use the same claim that we have been banned from using - the biggest 3G network by population. This is absurd and makes a mockery of the ASA's ruling."

Orange is now calling for an independent body to be formed to give verfification of figures like the biggest 3G network, to ensure the public don't lose out.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.